Chicago Eyes an Array of Applications for IoT Project

Chicago Eyes an Array of Applications for IoT Project

Like other cities, Chicago has begun exploring the promise of Internet of Things.

In the Windy City, one center of IoT activity is the Array of Things (AoT) project, which will provide real-time, location-based data about the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity to researchers and the public.

A collaboration between researchers from the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, AoT is a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. The project is executed in partnership with the City of Chicago and enjoys the participation of a growing number of technology vendors, including Cisco, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Intel, Motorola Solutions, and Zebra Technologies.

“Some of our early goals for the project are driven by specific community or researcher requests,” Charlie Catlett, lead investigator for the Array of Things project and director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, told Data Informed in an email. “For example, we would like to track standing water at intersections on the West Side of Chicago, which experiences major flooding during severe weather. Having a high-quality, high-resolution dataset for when and under what conditions intersections flood will help the city make infrastructure changes to reduce such flooding in the future.”

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Another use of the AoT node data involves a grant with a group from University of Chicago Medicine. That group has been studying cardiovascular health in different Chicago neighborhoods, collecting medical and survey data from thousands of Chicago residents. Catlett said the idea is to merge this data with environmental data collected by AoT nodes from the neighborhoods. “We believe that this will offer valuable data to test hypotheses about the relationship between pollution/air quality and health,” he said.

Chicago is no stranger to tests of new wireless infrastructure technology.  The city was the site of the Bell System’s cellular network, which was built in 1977 and tested in 1978.

The AoT project began more than four years ago, when Catlett teamed with Rajesh Sankaran and Pete Beckman from the Computation Institute/Argonne; Douglas Pancoast and Satya Mark Basu from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago helped design the node enclosures.

AoT nodes, based on hardware and software designs from the Waggle research project at Argonne National Laboratory, contain various environmental sensors. The initial design has sensors for temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and ambient sound intensity. Designed to be modular, AoT nodes can be upgraded as sensor technology or research needs change. For example, sensors could be developed to monitor urban factors such as flooding, precipitation, wind, and pollutants.

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The nodes themselves range in price, depending on their scientific capabilities, from $500 to $2,000.

To date, the AoT project has deployed test equipment near the University of Chicago, but broader installation of the first 50 sensors is expected to take place during the first quarter of this year, and the sensors are expected to begin generating data by summer.;

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